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Five Years and a Day

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When the news comes in that the Drakh plague has been cured for the first time, Lochley spares Gideon only a fleeting thought. There are other things to focus on—a celebration, for one, and the day-to-day operations on B5. The first Earthers come, starting with a trickle of tourists and merchants, then an ever steady flow, just like before the plague.

Months pass, then years, and reports keep coming in about research done on the virus, about successes and, finally, a complete eradication. At one point, she actually does go to Earth to pay Stephen back for that Mars Conference, but when she sees him, as run down by his job as ever, she smiles and invites him to dinner instead.

The routines never change, and when a Destroyer Class Whitestar requests permission to dock, it’s not an occurrence that warrants her being disturbed from her one hour of peace. Afterwards, she quickly skims the docking register, and, finding nothing out of the ordinary, carries on with her shift as usual.

In the end, she runs into him by accident, in a corridor on her way from C&C.

“Matt! What are you doing here?”

“Hey!” He almost leans in to hug her, but changes his mind at the last second. “Well, it has been five years and a day. I said I’d come. I didn’t think I’d catch you this soon, though,” he tilts his head towards the part of the station she just came from.

“You haven’t been here long then?”

“Just a few hours. I thought I’d get the latest update on my ship before I turn in.”

“I must’ve missed the Excalibur on the schedule.” She taps her link, and seconds later, he has the information, and by some mutual consensus, they start walking. “Now that that’s settled, I believe you also said you’d tell me something back then. Whether or not you believe in God?”

He thinks her question over for a minute, but only to figure out how best to explain his answer; he figured out his beliefs a long time ago.

“I don’t believe in a god, no.”

“But you found the cure,” Lochley reminds him, confused.

“We did. But not thanks to some supreme being. Not even thanks to John Sheridan.” She laughs at that, and the sound makes him smile. “You want to know what I believe in?” At her nod, he continues, “I believe in people. I believe in what people can do when they apply themselves to something, when they stand together—fight together. People found the cure, not god.”

She can’t argue with him on that.

“Well, that’s as good a belief as any, I guess. Good thing you’re here then.”

His eyebrows shift upwards, but Lochley explains before he can ask: “Haven’t you heard? We on B5 are back to being the Last Best Hope for Peace.”

That finally gets a laugh out of him, too, and much of the awkward tension dissipates to both their delight. Gideon takes a moment to watch Elizabeth’s face, then clears his throat.

“So, I recall you promising to show me this station of yours.”

“I did.” The smile’s there again, and he remembers that look well. “But then, we did that last time.”

“Indeed. Any other suggestions?”

Gideon’s almost sure she’ll tell him she’s busy, that the station needs to be take care of, and whatever else she can come up with to get away from him.

“How about dinner?”

Well, look at that, he thinks. Miracles do happen.

“I’d like that.”

 

---

 

They don’t pick up where they left off. She is busy, and the station does need to be taken care of, but he’s waiting for new orders, and he can do that anywhere. Besides, she was right; he has been isolated on the Excalibur—not that he’d ever admit that to her voluntarily.

He brings up the subject over lunch a few days later, and it turns into the argument he expected.

“I could stay.”

“Capt— Matt, look. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but B5 already has a captain, and doesn’t need another.”

“Oh, no, I don’t want to take your command away from you, or step on anyone’s toes. I just thought I could make the station my base of operations.”

“Base of operations?” Lochley’s voice is laced with as much scepticism as he’s ever heard it.

“Yeah. We’ll be gone for a bit, explore the galaxy, and then come back here.”

“I don’t know if that’s such a good ide—”

“Listen,” he interrupts, knowing she’s about to shoot him down for good. “You were right. I’ve let myself become isolated these past five years—even after we found the cure. And I have it on good authority that that can’t happen in a place like this.” He throws his most disarming smile into the mix. “Give me a month. If you still want me gone then, I’ll leave and I won’t look back.”

He would look back, but she doesn’t need to know that.

“Three weeks.”

A retort is sharp on his tongue, but he knows a last offer when he hears one. Besides, if he lets her win now, maybe she’ll return the favour some other time. (Oh, who’s he kidding, she’ll never let him win. Strangely enough, though, he’s fine with that.)

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were trying to get rid of me, Captain.”

She doesn’t say anything, only gives him a look that tells him she was trying exactly that, the corners of her mouth twitching just enough to give her away.

“Three weeks then,” he relents, and ignores how pleased she looks with herself.

 

---

 

Two weeks and four days go by until she asks for his help. Well, not help, that would be like admitting weakness. Instead, she asks for his expertise. He’s a strategist, a tactician, and with that Centauri mess going on, they do need someone like him. She spends half an hour on a link with President Sheridan himself, and by the end of the conversation, she’s had Gideon and his ship assigned to B5 permanently.

When she tells him the news, his face lights up in that way that makes her slightly uncomfortable, mostly because she worries he’ll expect more from her now. But he doesn’t, and in the weeks that follow, while they work more and more closely together, he never makes a move.

They still spend time together off-duty, meet up for lunch and dinner more often than not, and she finds she misses their conversations when they’re apart. Matt is one of the few people not intimidated by her, one of the few people she can actually talk to. She doesn’t let herself dwell on it.

For his part, Gideon divides his time between plotting strategies and roaming the quadrant. It’s not the job he’d hoped for, but it’s not bad-different, just… different. And the time he spends with Elizabeth makes up for a lot of other shortcomings. He just wants sometimes, and that’s not something he should even be considering, because he knows that eventually, he’ll go away again. He’s not the kind to stay in one place for long, especially not after seeing what’s out there all this time on the Excalibur. And yet…

And yet, five years later, he still remembers her skin, slippery from the shower water; her drying hair tumbling down her shoulders while her fingers dug into his chest. There is still a current flowing between them that not even that night diminished one bit. If anything, he’s more drawn to her now than he was before he knew what she looked like, felt like, tasted like.

If she feels the same way, she hasn’t given anything away, and he’s pretty sure she’d die before giving him a clue. It’s all the same, though; who knows how long he’ll actually stick around. That’s another thing he wants, to go back out there. Not right this second, but at some point soon. Space calls to him, and he knows that, in the near future, the quadrant won’t be enough anymore.

 

---

 

One night, very late—nearly too late—Gideon gets into an unfortunate incident with a barrel of engine oil that leaves him greasy and thoroughly disgusted by his own appearance.

He has pushed the memory of That Night so far into the back of his mind that it doesn’t occur to him until he starts undressing to vibe the mess off his body, thinking about how much he misses real water, that only a few decks away, there’s a perfectly good hot-water shower.

Before he can talk himself out of it, he grabs a pair of clean pants and a fresh shirt, and is out the door.

“What happened to you?” she asks, wrinkling her nose in what she hopes looks like only half disgust, and half pity.

“What do you mean? Don’t tell me you don’t like my new look!”

She lets him into her quarters, but not without telling him to watch where he’s dripping his ‘new look’—air quotes and all.

“So this won’t be all the rage around here?”

Lochley just shakes her head sympathetically. That’s when she spots the pants and shirt he’s trying not to get covered in grease, too.

“Are those spare clothes?” she asks, eyebrows almost disappearing into her hairline.

“Well, I was hoping that maybe you’d let me use your shower.” He almost adds ‘again’, but somehow, he doesn’t think bringing up That Night now will improve his chances at ever being clean again. “Contrary to what you might think, I don’t enjoy being doused in engine oil, and, well, you have a shower, and I clearly need one. Plus, I have an early meeting tomorrow and if I have to vibe this off, I won’t get any sleep. And we both know this really isn’t a good look so…”

He wants to stop babbling, knows he should, but somehow, being around her rattles him more than usual lately, and he can’t seem to keep his mouth closed.

“Has anyone ever told you you talk too much?”

Well, that does it.

“As a matter of fact, no.”

“Really?” she feigns surprise. “Well, it’s an honour to be the first.”

Matt just glares at her then.

“Go ahead,” she finally says, “shower’s all yours.”

She doesn’t tell him that there’s no hot water left. He’ll figure that out by himself.

 

---

 

Three similarly unfortunate incidents later, she makes the invitation a standing one.

 

---

 

In a stupid move that she’ll later declare entirely his fault, he ruins the ceremony around her promotion to Colonel. (That she didn’t even want the ceremony in the first place and spent the two weeks leading up to it complaining to him about it somehow won’t come up in the conversation.)

And he won’t even be able to deny her accusation because, well, he does get himself abducted by a couple of Drazi.

When Lochley hears about it, she only sighs, and excuses herself from the ceremony, much to everyone’s chagrin. She spares a thought to one of the reports she vaguely remembers reading after taking over the station, about how her predecessor had once managed to land herself in the same predicament. She wonders if those are the same Drazi, but vows to boot them off the station no matter what. Or maybe give them a medal, depending on how much Gideon deserved being taken prisoner.

It doesn’t actually take her long to find him, and when she does, he’s hanging like pork roast in the oven, upside down, hands bound to a metal rod, a gag firmly in his mouth. She can’t help the chuckle that escapes at the image, and the way his eyes narrow tells her he’s more annoyed and uncomfortable than in actual pain. There’s no one nearby, but she can hear voices from next door.

“See, I told you you talk too much,” she whispers while she unties the piece of cloth around his head.

“Yeah, very funny, now get me out of here, please,” he growls under his breath and tries to loosen his jaw.

Elizabeth does as asked, but before they can get clear of this poor excuse of a prison cell, the door swings open and one of the Drazi comes in, gun in hand. Lochley doesn’t think twice about what she should be doing and knocks the gun right to the floor. The other Drazi isn’t far behind, though, so Gideon and Lochley make a run for it.

The Drazi follows, and before long, they’re being chased through a dark part of the station and occasionally shot at. The scenario is eerily familiar, and once they’re no longer in danger, this will make a great story to laugh about.

Matt remembers the ruse she came up with last time and is tempted to give that another try, but Elizabeth proves once again that she knows B5 and its alien inhabitants better than he does.

His lesson for today: Drazi aren’t all that hard to outwit.

“How do you do it?” she asks, breathing still ragged after she’s disarmed their pursuer and effectively rendered him unconscious.

“Do what?”

Gideon leans forward to catch his breath.

“Invite the trouble. It always seems to find you.”

“Talent,” he just quips, and looks up at her. She’s closer than he expected, the adrenaline is still rushing through his blood, and if nothing comes along to stop him, he’s going to do something incredibly stupid.

“Let’s go,” she says, though, and moves away, and just like that, the moment is over.

He shakes his head to clear it, then follows. Before they get back into the more populated parts of the station, she feels his hand on her shoulder and turns around.

“Thank you, Colonel,” he says, gratitude and something heavier in his eyes.

“Nuh uh, not yet.”

“What do you mean? I didn’t miss it?”

“Oh, you did,” she says, and watches his face fall a bit before she takes pity on him, “but so did I. So I guess they’ll have to redo the whole thing.”

“That’s too bad,” he says, but the grin on his face betrays his words.

She elbows him in the side just hard enough to hurt a little.

 

---

 

In the end, it all happens much less dramatically.

They’ve long settled into a comfortable routine of shared dinners, and more often than not, work intervenes in some shape or form.

It is late on an Earth Friday when they’re in his quarters, discussing a new treaty the Alliance is trying to get the members to sign. They disagree on more than a few of the issues, and it’s not the first time they stay up far longer than they usually would just to get in the last word.

What remains of the chicken tikka they shared has long grown cold, as has the coffee he poured her after dinner. Elizabeth’s hands are flying through the air in the middle of the passionate argument she’s making, and he can’t keep the smile off his face.

A while later, she decides it’s become too late, and declares they’ll continue the discussion tomorrow. That it will be over breakfast doesn’t even need to be said.

“Oh!” she remembers, her jacket already dangling off her arm, “I brought you the vid you asked for.”

His face lights up, and she’s gotten pretty good at ignoring her own body’s reactions to that.

“Great, thanks! It really is late, so I’ll watch it tomorrow.” He still hesitates for the length of a few heartbeats, and that, too, does something to her. “Maybe you’ll join me?”

“Maybe I will.” She’s still digging in her pocket for the crystal, but grins up at him anyway. “Ah, there you go!”

His hand against hers is a shock that shouldn’t be one. It’s like fire—no, like electricity, she decides. It’s like being struck by lightning. Distantly, she hears his breath catch, and when she looks from their joined hands to his face, there’s only certainty there.

She has another split second to put a stop to this, to withdraw, but they both know she won’t, and then Matt is leaning down, his hand wraps more firmly around hers, and they’re making up for lost time like somehow she had always known they would.

After all, if they’re going to have dinner and breakfast together all the time anyway, they might as well cut down on commuting.